Inside Raila grand plan to counter Ruto

William Ruto and Raila Odinga

President William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In an exclusive interview, Azimio Deputy Secretary-General and National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi explained the coalition’s plans, within and without the House, in its bid to maintain unity.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya has mooted a three-pronged approach to deal with emergent renegades in the coalition, as the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance continues to woo them.

In an exclusive interview, Azimio Deputy Secretary-General and National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi explained the coalition’s plans, within and without the House, in its bid to maintain unity.

The Ugunja MP, who is also the ODM Secretary of Political Affairs said the coalition will deploy a multi-faceted approach to defend itself, including continued engagement with members at all levels, balanced allocation of available roles and, above all, “direct engagements with the people on the ground”.

Is the Minority side, which you lead in the House, intact?

Politics is dynamic; it keeps changing. What is critical is that in a movement such as ours, you don’t expect not to have your lows and highs.

You don’t expect not to have setbacks from time to time. There is a serious onslaught from the regime that is in power on our coalition, cannibalising our numbers and dividing us. Sometimes, that is what results in discordance or differences in opinion.

However, differences in opinion are a normal thing, more so if based on principles and ideologies. The key thing is that whenever we have differences, we resolve them through our internal mechanisms.

Does it concern you that your members are pledging loyalty to the Kenya Kwanza government?

It depends on how one wants to look at it. There is still this misconception that as a political leader who is elected, you need to be seen to be close to those who are in the Executive to get what they are referring to as development for your people.

It is a fallacy in the sense that even those who are already inside the so-called government, party, or coalition that has formed the government are dissatisfied with some of its pronouncements and their expectations are not being met.

The government, which is elected by the people, has got a legal and moral obligation to serve every citizen and every part of the country equally.

Therefore, development, as it were, can never be a gift. It can never be seen as some kind of carrot being dangled. It is the right of the people to have that development since they are projects that are implemented from taxpayers’ money. The constitution has given us, Azimio, the role to oversight the Executive and to defend the interests of the people.

Do you have fears that the dalliance between some Azimio leaders and the government could interfere with the opposition’s role in Parliament?

It just weakens the spirit of our members. History is on our side. Very soon, there will be new realignments, shifts in alliances ... You could be running away from your house hoping to get refuge elsewhere, yet the house you are running to is crumbling.

So it’s very possible that by the time the next elections come, we shall be having a totally different landscape, politically speaking.

Which action(s) is your coalition going to undertake to avert further exits by your members?

We shall continue to talk to the leaders and make them understand the folly of what they are being led into. More importantly, we shall continue with direct engagements with the people on the ground.

What does the future hold for Azimio? Can the coalition stand the test of time?

It is normal for a political party or movement to take stock of the gains and probably losses so as to inform the way forward.

We had hoped to form the government for the good of not only our members, but all other Kenyans through the implementation of our very robust and revolutionary manifesto.

Missing that opportunity once or twice does not mean the end of the road. We must focus on the singular objective of capturing state power not just for our own selfish interest but for the good of the nation.

It may be that in the next electoral cycle, our movement shall have evolved into something else, but the objectives and principles underpinning our existence – the philosophy – remains the same.

As Azimio Deputy Secretary-General, how did you lose the August 9 elections?

That election was disputed vigorously by our side up to the Supreme Court. We said we respect the Supreme Court even though we do not agree with it.

Some voices in your party feel you are one of the “blue-eyed boys” who failed Raila Odinga in the August election. What’s your take?

I’m not sure about the term “blue-eyed boy”, but what I know is that I’m a faithful disciple of Raila Amolo Odinga and I have come a long way with him.

I strongly believe in his ideals or those that he holds dear. I am ideologically completely aligned to him and I’m not the only one, we are many, I believe.

As you know, he is an institution. I basically play my role and make my small contribution to the cause of the movement.

This movement is a very old one and it goes beyond ODM, Azimio, or our party leader. It’s a serious movement for positive change and will outlive everybody else.

Do you think your presidential lineup, with Raila Odinga as the flagbearer, can still suffice in the 2027 election?

2027 is still too far away. A lot of things are going to happen between now and then.

Again, as I have said, this movement is never about who is leading or who is running for president, but about the objectives and wider vision of the movement.

Are there plans by your coalition to revive BBI (Building Bridges Initiative), which it pushed passionately before it was stopped by the courts?

It’s not a question of BBI but what was in it. In my view, BBI by any other name is still relevant and desirable. It might not come back in the name of BBI, but those issues contained in it are for sure going to be implemented in one way or another.

As you can see, the current regime is already pushing for the Cabinet secretaries to be allowed to come to Parliament to answer questions from members.

That was our proposal in the BBI. We wanted to entrench it in the constitution and have part of the Cabinet appointed from the House to cure what they are trying to do through the back door.

In essence, they are already introducing BBI through the back door. We had talked about the issue of allocations to counties being enhanced to at least 35 per cent, that has not changed. Basically, the BBI spirit is still alive.

Are the plans by Azimio to form a shadow Cabinet to help it play its opposition role still alive?

The plans are still there even though it is not within my province to make any pronouncement on them because that is a matter that the Azimio top leadership seized of.

What’s your vision as the National Assembly Minority Leader?

I want us to play the role of a true people’s watchdog and ensure we check this government from engaging in excesses. If we can do that successfully, by the end of the five-year term, I will have succeeded.

In terms of Bills, we don’t talk about quantity, it’s about quality. We are focused on promoting Bills that better the lot of the people.

They say you have risen too fast, what do you attribute this to?

I would attribute it first to God. I think it’s God who has designed all this. Secondly, I attribute it to my commitment, faithfulness and fidelity to the cause of the movement.

How do you relate with the Majority side in the House?

We engage constructively on issues that concern the House and those of mutual interest to Kenyans.

Opposition troops have been accused of dallying with the government when it comes to Bills that touch on the welfare of MPs. What’s your take on this?

I can’t say so because so far there is no Bill that has been tabled on the floor of the House that has received bipartisan support.

Save for the proposal on the amendment of the Constitution to entrench the CDF, which is yet to be concretised or condensed into a Bill.

But as I have said, we are open to engage constructively on issues that are of benefit to the people of Kenya.

Anything else that we feel is contrary to the aspirations and wishes of the people, we shall oppose vigorously, including the latest policy pronouncements by the Cabinet on the importation of genetically modified maize while farmers are languishing in poverty.

Can you rate your performance as Minority Leader thus far?

It’s difficult to rate one’s own performance because you may end up being subjective. I think we have steered the coalition fairly well so far amid the turbulence that has been orchestrated by the ruling regime.

We continue to form ourselves as a team, bond and know each other since we have got many members in the House and have remained steadfast in terms of checking the government/Executive.

What’s your parting shot?

It is our cardinal duty as patriotic Kenyans, regardless of our political affiliation, to safeguard the democratic gains that this country realised through years of struggle, sweat and pain, and to work tirelessly towards entrenching true democracy in our country. That is the key to our future as a country.